Hard NOC Life this week to break down the news of the 2019 Oscar nominations!
History was made this morning when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled its list of honorees celebrating the films of 2018 and named Black Panther as one of the nominees for Best Picture. While plenty of comic book films have received nominations over the decades, no superhero film had ever been nominated for the most prestigious prize of the night. The Dark Knight came closest in 2009 — winning a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award for Heath Ledger and prompting the Academy to expand its nomination list from five to ten the following year.
The superhero genre — as we know it — was first birthed over seven decades ago in the pulpy pages of the 10-cent comic books. Mint copies of which that are now worth thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Not only are the books themselves more valuable, many of those original heroes are even more popular today than they were at their inception. Even the heroes who weren’t popular then have been resurrected to much critical acclaim today. We call this period of superhero storytelling “the Golden Age” of comics, but we are currently living in a new golden age of superhero storytelling, except the heroes have migrated from the four-color page to the fourteen-screen multiplex.
The fact that we can count on a new comic book superhero movie (or three) every year until infinity and beyond is both a blessing and a curse for the nerd contingent. For every billion-dollar grossing blockbuster that stars men in tights saving the universe — and it is almost always men — there are critics from both within and without nerdom that bemoan the genre’s grasp on pop culture and predict its demise every year. “Superhero fatigue,” it’s called. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the latest film from writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu — best known for heavier, more melodramatic fare like Babel and 21 Grams — and it takes on the superhero genre, and the fatigue that may or may not come along with it, like no other film before it.
The critics have been salivating over Alfonso Cuarón’s latest effort, the ambitious science fiction thriller Gravity. And don’t get it twisted: Gravity is pretty darned good. It’s visually and narratively haunting — one of the few contemporary movies that succeeds in marrying a high-concept story with the audience’s (admittedly low-brow) yearning to see things blow up. Also, Gravity is one of the year’s few films that fully takes advantage of 3D technology to establish the various environments that the characters encounter (although I confess I chose to watch Gravity in standard projection because 3D makes my head hurt).
So yes, Gravity is pretty darned good.
But, I just can’t shake the feeling that it could have been so much better.
Spoiler Alert! Please don’t read on if you don’t want Gravity spoiled for you.